Current situation

Check with your local district or forest protection association for restrictions or use ODF's fire restrictions and closures web page for the latest details at https://www.oregon.gov/ODF/Fire/Pages/Restrictions.aspx.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Eclipse passes over Oregon with minimal impact on wildfire efforts


Months of planning for the great solar eclipse on Aug. 21 appear to have paid off. Minimal impacts on wildfire efforts were reported yesterday. Considering the influx of visitors during peak fire season, the day of the eclipse saw fewer than 10 new fires statewide across all jurisdictions. Those fires reportedly 
Above: Firefighters from ODF's Dallas office in Polk County
 watch the sky during the Aug. 21 solar eclipse.
burned only about four acres. For the entire four-day eclipse period (Friday-Monday), new human-caused wildfire starts were down by nearly half. At Oregon State Parks, there were zero human-caused fires despite a heavy influx of campers.


Close cooperation between state agencies leading up to the eclipse helped spread widely messages about the importance of preventing wildfire. The Oregon Department of Transportation highway message boards alerted arriving visitors and residents alike to the extreme wildfire danger. Keep Oregon Green also peppered the state with similar messages on everything from billboards to restaurant placemats. 

ODF brought in additional ground and aerial resources from out of state under the Northwest Compact. After briefings they were deployed in the path of totality where fire danger was high to extreme and travel times uncertain. Some engaged with local ODF districts in helping on existing large fires that threatened ODF-protected lands.

Today, resources are being repositioned in light of the state's current fire picture. There are nine large uncontained fires currently burning in Oregon. The greatest in area is the Chetco Bar Fire in Curry County. The fire has continued to grow from its explosive expansion over the weekend, reaching an estimated 98,000 acres as of this morning.
Strong winds had been pushing the fire south, driving it onto land protected by the Coos Forest Protective Association (CFPA). Several thousand acres of protected timber have been affected.

Level 3 evacuations have uprooted more than 3,000 people. The Red Cross has set up a shelter for evacuees at Riley Creek Elementary School in Gold Beach. While Highway 101 remains open, motorists are requested to avoid traveling the section north of the Brookings area if possible. The fire has reached as close as six miles from Brookings, where smoke is affecting air quality.

Dry air mass, lower relative humidity and north/northeast winds continue to present heightened potential for rapid fire growth. Forecast weather points to continued fire growth to the southwest and south, which will threaten several high-value resources.
A Type One Incident Management Team will take over command of the fire tomorrow. Deputy State Forester Nancy Hirsch is already at the incident command post along with other personnel from ODF and Coos Forest Protective Association. ODF yesterday sent to the fire two strike teams of engines that had come from Washington State to provide extra help during the eclipse. Two Oregon Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters are also being redeployed from the Whitewater Fire in the Cascades to the Chetco Bar Fire.
Total personnel on the scene from all agencies now stands at over 360.

The fire was started by lightning July 12 on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
New wildfires on ODF-protected land  

Prompt initial attack stopped a flurry of new fires in Douglas County on Monday. Firefighters from Douglas Forest Protective Association responded to four fires over the course of the day. They kept the largest - a vehicle fire along I-5 that spread up a steep hillside - from advancing beyond 1.5 acres. The others were kept to a tenth of an acre or less.

Updates on other existing Oregon wildfires

ODF has personnel engaged on all these fires. Their primary mission is to help coordinate and ensure the protection of ODF-protected lands.

Milli Fire - Deschutes National Forest
This fire just outside Sisters is reported as 11,236 acres this morning, a growth of 1,905 acres. The fire is 23 percent contained. The main part of the fire is moving into the Three Sisters Wilderness to the west and south.

Protecting structures remains a high priority. Level Three evacuation orders remain for the Edgington and Crossroads subdivisions and isolated structures south of Sisters. The Tollgate subdivision is under a Level One evacuation notice. Closures of roads and recreation areas remain in place.
Unified Command has been established with the Oregon State Fire Marshall's Green team. More than 640 personnel are reported engaged in fighting the fire. ODF, Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests, Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office, and Oregon Department of Transportation are cooperating to manage the fire.

Falcon Complex - Umpqua National Forest
This group of fires burning in timber roughly 17 miles north of Prospect in southern Oregon has grown to 3,100 acres. It is reported at 18 percent containment. About 570 personnel are assigned to the fire. Structures and private land are threatened.

High Cascades Complex - in and around Crater Lake National Park
Road, trail and area closures are still in place on this group of fires, which has grown to 12,163 acres. About 450 personnel are assigned to the fire, including over 100 Oregon National Guard members.

Jones Fire - Willamette National Forest
This fire is now reported at 15 percent contained. The fire size is 5,354 acres. More than 600 personnel are assigned to the fire. It is located east of Springfield and about 10 mile northeast of the town of Lowell.

Miller Complex - Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest
This group of fires has grown to 9,707 acres this morning. The Abney, Burnt Peak, Creedence, and Seattle fires are expected to remain active and spread as roll-out and associated uphill runs aid fire growth The Complex is burning in timber southwest Jackson County near the California border.

Nena Springs - Warm Springs reservation
Evacuation notices for this fire have been lifted. This fire is listed at 68,135 acres and 60 percent contained. Firefighters are extinguishing hot spots within the fire to prevent escape. The fire is now believed to have been human caused.

North Pelican - Fremont-Winema National Forest
Located about 28 miles northwest of Klamath Falls, this lightning-caused fire has been burning since Aug. 10. The fire, burning in timber, has grown moderately to 1,200 acres. It is also reported to be threatening structures. 

Staley Fire - Willamette National Forest
This lightning-caused fire 23 miles south of Oakridge is reported to have grown to 864 acres. It is burning just a few miles from ODF-protected land and is reported as 6 percent contained. More than 350 personnel are assigned to the fire.

Umpqua North Complex - Umpqua National Forest 
This fire is now reported at 11,680 acres. The largest fire within the complex is the Happy Dog Fire. In places, bearded lichen on trees are catching fire and becoming airborne, spreading the fire. ODF and the Douglas Forest Protective Association are part of a Unified Command formed in response to the fire. Campground and area closures are in effect and evacuations are in place. The immediate focus is on structure protection and securing firelines around developed areas.

Whitewater Fire - Willamette National Forest / ODF North Cascade District
This fire is still listed at 8,419 acres this morning. Burnout operations have been conducted to remove vegetation between this fire and control lines, helping keep the fire from spreading into private forestland. Two Oregon Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters are being redeployed from this fire to help with the Chetco Bar Fire in southwest Oregon.

 

 

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The purpose of this blog is to provide breaking news about wildfire activity on the forestlands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry. We invite you to post questions or comments about current wildfires. Please keep your posts civil and free of profanity.

Current wildfire info

National weather forecasters predictions that Oregon would see above average temperatures and below average rainfall in the summer of 2018 proved true. Almost all of Oregon was abnormally dry this summer, with a majority of the state in moderate to severe drought. Many areas posted record high temperatures or record strings of hot days. These conditions set the stage for potentially large, fast-moving wildfires.


What we do

Protection jurisdiction
The Oregon Dept. of Forestry protects 16 million acres of private and public forestlands from wildfire. This includes all private forestlands in Oregon as well as state and local government-owned forests, along with 2.8 million acres of federal Bureau of Land Management lands in the western part of the state. In total there are about 30.4 million acres of forest in Oregon.

Fire suppression policy
The department fights fire aggressively, seeking to put out most fires at 10 acres or smaller. This approach minimizes damage to the timber resource and fish and wildlife habitat, and protects lives and property. It also saves money. While suppressing large fires can cost millions of dollars, economic and environmental damage from wildfires can be many times greater.

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Oregon Dept. of Forestry's public information officers in Salem, Ore., maintain this blog. During the wildfire season, we spend much of our time reporting on fires and firefighting to news media and the public.